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May 31, 2011

Fees Rising in Arlington County? It’s Worse, Much Worse!

A letter to the editor writer in this week’s Arlington Sun Gazette says the Arlington County Board "patted each other on the back for not raising the real estate tax rate," but continued "reaching into our pockets . . . by increasing fees for essential services." Specifically, he pointed out that the combined water and sewer billing rate has increased 71% over the last six years, in addition to an increase in the cost of parking meters.

Well, it’s worse. Since overall real estate assessments increased by 6.3% from CY 2010 to CY 2011, which included both commercial (12%) and residential (1.4%), the effective real estate tax increase would have been 5.6% -- even if the real estate tax rate remained unchanged.

But it’s even worse still. Reference Table E, page 171 of Arlington County’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for FY 2010. In 2001, “general property” taxes represented 79.5% of total general government tax revenues ($308.5 million divided by $$387.9 million). By FY 2010, the percentage of total tax revenues coming from “General Property” taxes increases to 83.9%. That means the County Board is placing a greater reliance on real estate taxes.

Let’s take a closer look at the 79.5% to 83.9% increase. If “General Property” tax revenues in FY 2010 had stayed at 79.5%, the county would have collected about $31.2 million less General Property taxes. If the Board would have rebated that back to Arlington taxpayers, it would have translated to lowering the real estate tax rate by about 3.5 cents or about a $179 lower tax bill for the “average homeowner.”

Something to talk about during your next conversation with a member of the Arlington County Board?

May 30, 2011

They Died So We May Be Free

HT for picture to Army Live, the US Army's official blog.

In a short history of Memorial Day, the Department of Veterans Affairs writes:

“Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

“The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

“The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.”

The VA history also says the official birthplace of Memorial Day was declared in 1966 because:

“Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were either informal, not community-wide or one-time events.

“By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.

“It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.”

The VA adds that some Confederate states have their own days for honoring Confederate fallen heroes.

An editorial in today’s Washington Times includes General John A. Logan’s General Orders No. 11 that he issued at the Headquarters of the Grand Army of the Republic on May 5, 1868. The Orders began:

"The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

“We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance.

Taste of Music has selected its Top 10 Memorial Day Songs. It includes Trace Adkins’ “Arlington” and Tim McGraw’s “If You’re Reading This," which you may want to read while reading this Growls post. A photo gallery of Arlington National Cemetery is here.

Finally, the next time you’re in the District, take a few minutes to drive through Logan Circle, named after General Logan. Another part of General Logan’s legacy, according to Wikipedia is a memorial statue in Chicago’s Grant Park, and at least three U.S. counties are named after him.

May 29, 2011

Have Environmentalists ‘Jumped the Shark?’

The Urban Dictionary describes ‘jumping the shark’ as “a “moment when somethin (sic) that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity.” Two stories posted on Drudge Report this weekend -- one from Charlotte, North Carolina and the other from San Diego, California -- reminded me of the phrase.

In San Diego, the Union-Tribune reports, “What started as a battle over fireworks shows led to a sweeping legal victory Friday for environmentalists that could stymie a wide range of events needing city permits, from the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon to birthday parties held at parks.” The newspaper also reported:

“Superior Court Judge Linda Quinn said La Jolla’s annual Fourth of July fireworks show requires evaluation under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.

“The case, filed by the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation in Encinitas, targeted San Diego’s approval of the La Jolla event but eventually drew in a broad swath of city permits. San Diego officials said they issue about 400 special-events permits annually, along with up to 20,000 park-use permits for smaller-scale gatherings — most of which would now need environmental assessment.”

[ . . . ]

"Marco Gonzalez, a lawyer for the environmental rights foundation, exulted over Friday’s win, which comes after months of criticism against him for challenging an American tradition.

“If you were to sum it up with one word, I would say ‘vindication.’ It’s vindication for the environment ... and it’s vindication for my client because of the amount of disparaging comments and general negativity that was thrown our way when we were told that our lawsuit was frivolous,” Gonzalez said.

Earlier this month, his lawsuit had spurred regional pollution regulators to adopt a new permit for fireworks shot over beaches and bays. The mandate, based on the Clean Water Act, was a national first.

The Charlotte Observer reports the Albemarle Road Presbyterian Church has been fine $100 per branch, or a total of $4,000 “for improperly pruning its trees.” The newspaper goes on to write:

“The fine will be dropped if the church replaces each of the improperly pruned trees, said Tom Johnson, senior urban forester for city of Charlotte Land Development Division.

"When they are nonrepairable, when they have been pruned beyond repair, we will ask them to be replaced," Johnson said. "We do that for a number of reasons but mainly because they are going to come back unhealthy and create a dangerous situation down the road."

“Charlotte has had a tree ordinance since 1978, and when trees are incorrectly pruned or topped, people can be subject to fines, Johnson said.

“Trees planted as a result of the ordinance are subject to the fines if they are excessively trimmed or pruned. These include trees on commercial property or street trees. They do not include a private residence.

"The purpose of the tree ordinance is to protect trees," Johnson said. "Charlotte has always been known as the city of trees. When we take down trees, we need to replace these trees."

“Individuals who would like to trim their trees should call the city foresters to receive a free permit to conduct the landscape work.

“Foresters will then meet with the person receiving the permit and give instructions on how to properly trim their trees, Johnson said.

“The state Division of Forestry recommends that anyone trimming trees should be certified by the National Horticulture Board, but certification is not required to receive a permit.“

"On private property, fine amounts are based on the size of the tree improperly pruned. For small trees such as cherry trees or crape myrtles, the fine is $75 per tree. Excessive cutting can increase that fine to $100 per branch.”

After reading the Charlotte church story, I was tempted to call Courthouse Plaza to find out if the Arlington County Board had picked-up and moved south to Charlotte, NC.

May 28, 2011

Time To Get Out Of That Bubble?

The Weekend Interview in the Wall Street Journal has assistant editorial editor Bari Weiss interviewing Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright David Mamet. The story is titled and subtitled:

“David Mamet's Coming Out Party: Before he moved to California, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet had never talked to a self-described conservative. 'I realized I lived in this bubble.'”

Before delving into the interview, a bit of history provided by a recent Press Clips, a blog of the Village Voice:

“In 2008, when President Barack Obama was just a surging senator, the famed (and rich!) writer David Mamet penned a political essay for the Village Voice that was titled "David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal.'" It was hugely successful -- basically the biggest story in this website's history, seen by over 2 million people -- and it's full of personal and ideological conflict, digression and flashes of frustrating genius. It sure was controversial -- again, you can still read it here. The new issue of The Weekly Standard, meanwhile, has a story called "Converting Mamet," over three years later, which refers to the playwright's political beliefs as "newly discovered," as if he didn't lay it all out way back when . . . .” (links available in the original)

We did growl about the essay on August 17, 2010 because Mamet had referred to Thomas Sowell, someone whose name you see frequently in Growls, as America’s “greatest contemporary philosopher.”

The entire interview is worth reading, but according to Weiss, Mamet’s conversion seems to begin with a reading of Whittaker Chambers’ 1952 book “Witness.” It continued with such books as "White Guilt" by Shelby Steele, "Ethnic America" by Thomas Sowell, "The Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War" by Wilfred Trotter, "The Road to Serfdom" by Friedrich Hayek, "Capitalism and Freedom" by Milton Friedman, and "On Liberty" by John Stuart Mill.”  About two-thirds of the way through the interview, Weiss writes:

“Reading and reflecting got him to some basics. Real diversity is intellectual. Whatever its flaws, America is the greatest country in the history of the world. The free market always solves problems better than government. It's the job of the state to be just, not to render social justice. And, most sobering, Mr. Mamet writes in "The Secret Knowledge," there are no perfect solutions to inequality, only trade-offs.

“It's a wonder he didn't explicitly adopt this tragic view of reality earlier on. The play "Glengarry Glen Ross," for example, for which Mr. Mamet won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize, is about a group of desperate men competing with each other in a Chicago real estate office. At stake: a Cadillac for the top seller. Second place: a set of steak knives. Third prize: you're fired.

“Needless to say, no one ends up getting the Caddie. "That's the essence of drama," Mr. Mamet says. "Anyone can write: And then we realized that Lithuanians are people too and we're all happier now. Who cares?" Tragedy is devastating, he says, precisely because it's about "people trying to do the best they can and ending up destroying each other.

[ . . . ]

“It's the last part—the temptation to believe that everything can be fixed—that Mr. Mamet thinks is the fatal error . . . .”

Thank goodness David Mamet’s bubble was burst.

May 27, 2011

386 Arizonans Willingly Pay More Taxes

Believe it, or not, 386 Arizonans opted to pay more taxes than they were legally liable to pay, according to the Tax Foundation’s blog. The Tax Foundation blog post was based upon a story in the Arizona Republic, which also reported:

“The amount was beyond the expectations of Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Bullhead City, one of many sponsors of the legislation, which passed with heavy bipartisan support last year.

I'm a little surprised it raised $13,000," she said. "I thought people would laugh at it, say, 'Ha ha,' and move on.

[. . . ]

“Donations averaged $34, but contributions in the range of $1 to $10 were the most prevalent.”

The Tax Foundation also points out that “the federal government also has a debt reduction fund to which taxpayers can voluntarily contribute. It has already brought in $1.7 million in fiscal year 2011, and brought in $2.8 million last year. If you would like to contribute to reducing the nation's $14.3 trillion debt, you can do so here. Or, as TreasuryDirect.gov instructs."

Arlingtonians, and indeed all Virginians, who think they are undertaxed, can make donations to Virginia’s Tax Me More Fund since the 2002 General Assembly passed the necessary legislation. The names of five Virginia families which have made donations to Virginia’s Tax Me More Fund appear at the Department of Taxation website. You will need to complete Form GFD, which you can obtain at the website.

p.s. I am not sure the page has been updated since my recollection is that the names have been there for some time.

May 26, 2011

Hey NSF Spokeswoman. Wake Up!

The Washington Times is reporting today that the National Science Foundation has mismanaged $3 billion for things such as "testing shrimp's exercise ability on a treadmill" and for "Jell-O wrestling at the South Pole," based on an oversight report released by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma). In response, the Times reports, "An NSF spokeswoman said agency officials have a 'gold-standard spproach to peer review' for the projects they spend money on."

The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan did go on to say that Sen. Tom Coburn's "report makes clear that the agency itself cracked down on some of the problems, including firing the organizer of the South Pole Jell-O wrestling event."

The press release from Sen. Coburn's office also shows:

"Examples of the more than $3 billion in waste and duplication outlined in the report include:

  • $80,000 study on why the same teams always dominate March Madness;
  • $315,000 study suggesting playing FarmVille on Facebook helps adults develop and maintain relationships;
  • $1 million for an analysis of how quickly parents respond to trendy baby names;
  • $50,000 to produce and publicize amateur songs about science, including a rap called “Money 4 Drugz,” and a misleading song titled “Biogas is a Gas, Gas, Gas”;
  • $2 million to figure out that people who often post pictures on the internet from the same location at the same time are usually friends; and
  • $581,000 on whether online dating site users are racist.

"Additionally, the report details examples of mismanagement including:

  • Hundreds of millions of dollars lost to ineffective contracting;
  • $1.7 billion in unspent funds sitting in expired, undisbursed grant accounts;
  • At least $3 million in excessive travel funds
  • A lack of accountability or program metrics to evaluate expenditures.
  • Inappropriate staff behavior including porn surfing and Jello wrestling and skinny-dipping at NSF-operated facilities in Antarctica.

"The report also identifies duplication between NSF and other departments and agencies. NSF is one of at least 15 federal departments, 72 sub-agencies, and 12 independent agencies engaged in federal research and development."

How many other instances of $1.7 billion in "unspent funds sitting in expired" accounts are there? And the dunderheads on Capitol Hill can't stop the spending? How do they keep getting reelected? And for the NSF spokeswoman, she needs to look at who pays her salary? The last time I looked, it was America's taxpayers.

May 25, 2011

Stop the Spending, Congress! Take Taxes "Off the Table"

In a letter to Senator Mitch McConnell last week (requires Adobe), leaders of a coalition of “limited government activists” asked Senators “to declare net tax increases ‘off the table’ in any budget or debt limit negotiations.” Among the coalition of activists were such groups as the National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Prosperity, 60 Plus Association, Small Business and Entrepreneurial Council, Hispanic Leadership Fund, and Tea Party Patriots.

The key points of the letter, according to Government Bytes, the NTU blog, were:

  1. Keep net tax increases off the negotiating table
  2. The problem is overspending, not under-taxing (emphasis added)
  3. No grand budget compromises if there are actual tax increases
  4. Washington D.C.’s extravagant spending has led to the current debt crisis

The coalition letter closed by saying:

“The limited government movement is united around the unavoidable fact that Washington spends too much money, and that’s what has put our nation in debt. Higher taxes will simply fuel yet more spending, as it has in the past. Only when tax increases are no longer part of the conversation can the debate in Washington turn to where it squarely belongs—the Beltway’s addiction to spending.

“We urge all Members of Congress and Senators to take tax increases off the table in any budget or debt limit legislation.”

Arlington County taxpayers concerned about federal spending and deficits and the debt may want to take a few minutes to voice their concerns to their poohbahs on Capitol Hill. Better yet, write to them at the links below:

  • Senator Jim Webb (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024.
  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023.
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376.

May 24, 2011

Isn't the Federal Government Wonderful? Not!

The U.S. General Accountability Office released two reports today regarding the so-called "stimulus bill" (officially the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but often referred  to as Porkulus) that was signed into law on February 17, 2009. One was a report issued to the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and two full committees. The second report was GAO testimony to the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

According to GAO, Congress “appropriated $275 billion to be distributed for federal contracts, grants, and loans. As of March 25, 2011, $191 billion of this $275 billion had been paid out. GAO performed their audit because they were “asked to determine if Recovery Act contract and grant recipients have unpaid federal taxes and, if so, to (1) determine, to the extent possible, the magnitude of known federal tax debt which is owed by Recovery Act contract and grant recipients; and, (2) provide examples of Recovery Act contract and grant recipients who have known unpaid federal taxes.”

What GAO found will likely raise your blood pressure. According to the report:

“At least 3,700 Recovery Act contract and grant recipients—including prime recipients, subrecipients, and vendors—are estimated to owe more than $750 million in known unpaid federal taxes as of September 30, 2009, and received over $24 billion in Recovery Act funds. This represented nearly 5 percent of the approximately 80,000 contractors and grant recipients in the data from www.Recovery.gov as of July 2010 that GAO reviewed.”

But it gets worse:

“GAO selected 15 Recovery Act recipients for further investigation. For the 15 cases, GAO found abusive or potentially criminal activity, i.e., recipients had failed to remit payroll taxes to IRS. Federal law requires employers to hold payroll tax money “in trust” before remitting it to IRS. Failure to remit payroll taxes can result in civil or criminal penalties under U.S. law. The amount of unpaid taxes associated with these case studies were about $40 million, ranging from approximately $400,000 to over $9 million. IRS has taken collection or enforcement activities (e.g., filing of federal tax liens) against all 15 of these recipients. GAO has referred all 15 recipients to IRS for further investigation, if warranted.”

But that’s not the worst of it! In one example where the the recipient of stimulus money had known unpaid taxes, GAO’s comments showed:

  • "Company primarily owes payroll taxes from the mid-2000s. The company generally did not make any federal tax deposits during that time.
  • "Company received multiple Recovery Act awards.
  • "At the same time that the company was not paying its federal tax deposit, a company executive had hundreds of thousands of dollars in casino transactions.
  • "According to IRS records, a company executive admitted to paying other creditors while neglecting to pay payroll taxes. IRS assessed a TFRP against a key executive for failure to pay payroll taxes.
  • "IRS established an installment agreement with the company to make monthly payments of over $1,000.
  • "Federal government awarded the company millions of dollars in nonstimulus funds in the late 2000s.
  • "IRS filed federal tax liens against this company."

Time to call your representative on Capitol Hill? If you want to call, the switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. If you prefer writing to Senators Webb and Warner and Representative Moran, visit our May 14, 2011 Growls since we include links to their e-mail contact forms as well as their individual office phone numbers.

UPDATE (5/25/11): Paul Caron at Tax Prof Blog links to a press release for the story, and then links to such media as Accounting Today, Politico, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal where you can read more reporting.

May 23, 2011

Poll of Public Knowledge About The Budget

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is a bipartisan, non-profit organization committed to educating the public about issues that have significant fiscal policy impact. The Committee includes many of the past chairs and directors of Congressional budget committees, the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Management and Budget, the Government Accountability Office, and the Federal Reserve Board.

Anonymous at the Committee’s blog makes an important point when he writes:

“One of the biggest challenges in getting public support for deficit-reduction measures has always been knowledge about the composition of the federal budget. After all, if people think that cutting foreign aid and government worker benefits is enough to solve our deficit issues, they will be skeptical of reforms to more popular areas of the budget or tax increases. A new CNN poll is another in a long line of polls that have attempted to gauge public knowledge of how their tax dollars are spent. Like many of these other polls, it attempts to show that the public significantly overestimates the size of several areas of the budget, especially among domestic discretionary programs.”

Some examples from the CNN poll of 1,023 adults shows “the public has a pretty good idea of the size of Social Security but way overestimates the portion of the budget that is dedicated to certain other domestic spending, foreign aid, and defense.” A couple of examples from several budget categories with actual numbers coming from OMB’s FY 2010 budget:

  • Military: most common range was more than 50%; median response 30%; actual 19%.
  • Medicare: most common range 11-20%; median response 20%; actual 13%.
  • Government Pensions: most common range 1-5%; median 10%; actual 4%.
  • Foreign Aid: most common range 1-5%; median 10%; actual 1%
  • Housing Assistance: most common range 1-5%; median 7%; actual 2%.
  • Public Broadcasting: most common range 1-5%; median response 5%; actual 0.01%.

Anonymous concludes by writing:

“So while this poll suggests the idea we hear frequently--that the public does not really know the composition of the budget well--it may not be as bad as the poll makes it appear. There does seem to be a good base of knowledge among a significant portion of the public. Nonetheless, we can always continue to do a better job of educating the public about budgetary issues which have (and will continue to have) such a large impact on people's lives.”

Sounds like a good reason for ACTA membership and for visiting Growls as often as you can.

May 22, 2011

The Motivation for Today's Progressive Income Tax

Burt Fulsom, a history professor at Hillsdale College in Michigan, writes in the May 2011 issue of “The Freeman,” published by the Foundation for Economic Education, that the early Progressives  (essentially the liberals of that day) “disliked consumption taxes as the major source for revenue. They were too small, too cumbersome to collect, and sometimes too regressive—wealth never properly redistributed itself through consumption taxes.”

The entire essay, titled "The Progressive Income Tax and the Joy of Spending Other People's Money," is just over two pages, and is worth reading in its entirety. He begins this way:

“On August 31, 1910, Teddy Roosevelt traveled to Kansas to make a stirring speech in support of a federal income tax. “The really big fortune,” Roosevelt said, “the swollen fortune by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes.”

“Those two sentences helped focus the Progressive worldview. First, the United States needed an income tax to capture large chunks of revenue. Second, someone who had a large fortune, “by the mere fact of its size,” had to be treated differently from other wealth holders. Property rights became variable. One group would be treated one way, other groups would be treated another way. Third, the nation needed a “graduated income tax” to redistribute wealth from the haves to the have-nots. The new tax slogan would be “ability to pay.”

“Author Delos Kinsman, writing while Roosevelt was president, said, “Individuals should contribute to the support of the government according to ability.” And “income is the most just measure of that ability.” Enlightened leaders like Teddy Roosevelt would redistribute wealth in the national interest.

“Roosevelt’s thinking was a profound change from the views of the Founders. To them, government existed to protect property, not redistribute it. Americans had a right to pursue life, liberty, and property, not an entitlement to it. Thus the Founders never considered raising revenue through an income tax, least of all a graduated one . . . .”

Fulsom makes one other especially astute observation when he writes:

“Progressives easily sold this tax plan to the voters. Fewer than one American family in 100 paid anything, but politicians could promise audiences that they might receive benefits from the revenue. And who would dare to suggest that billionaire John D. Rockefeller did not have the ability to pay 7 percent of his huge income to the government?”

Is there any wonder why liberals aren’t keen about a flat tax, the FairTax, or returning to an “originalist” view of the U.S. Constitution?

May 21, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Capitalism may be the sole avenue where otherwise debilitating character traits like greed and selfishness get channeled into harmonious community benefitting all. In capitalism, wealth is generated by mutually beneficial trade. Profit derives from adding value. The lure of gain engineers progress as directed by the market.

"Allowing the greedy their gains spurs production which grows the pie for all of us. Progressive taxation and cumbersome red tape may somewhat constrain greed, but these deny others the benefit of their efforts. Redistributions of wealth reward those susceptible to laziness and sloth, but consumption without production shrinks the pie."

     ~ Bill Flax, Blogger (Forbes' "The Courage to Do Nothing" blog)

HT Forbes Magazine

May 20, 2011

Environmental Activists on the Taxpayer Dole

Robert Gordon posted a great report yesterday on the Heritage Foundation’s blog, “The Foundry,” that should raise most taxpayers’ blood pressure. Gordon notes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has 109 of 2,141 federal grant programs, and over “the past decade, the EPA awarded or continues to have open more than 7,500 grants, totaling $3,847,160,250 to non-profit groups alone,” just over $500,000 per grant. In addition, these non-profits often collect attorney fees from the federal government.

He also notes EPA has certainly not had to tighten its belt. Rather, he writes:

“The Obama Administration’s first budget increased EPA funding to $10.3 billion, a whopping 36% over the preceding fiscal year. While the President’s current budget request is down from the all-time high, it is still more than 20% over the FY 2008 budget.”

Gordon cites the activities of numerous environmental organizations, and each of their stories will help to raise your blood pressure several points. However, let me cite just one organization -- the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO). He devotes the first three paragraphs of the blog to describe the "fine work" of LVEJO:

“In November 2009, a dozen protesters triggered a traffic jam in an intersection of Chicago’s financial sector by laying down in a circle in the middle of the road, locking their arms together inside pieces of pipe. They were protesting the city’s climate exchange, part of a scheme to regulate CO2 emissions through permits. Ironically, it was a case of a left-leaning plan being attacked by the far left.

“After a few hours, the activists were arrested, including among their ranks members of groups like the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO). According to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, about six months later, the agency awarded LVEJO a $25,000 environmental justice grant, which was to be directed to “…work[ing] in coalition with their partners to implement 3 areas of Climate Change Mitigation…” The first “area” is to “…conduct a grassroots Clean Power Campaign in the Chicago Region to address coal power plant emissions…”

“If EPA’s grant was an attempt get LVEJO to change its tactics, it doesn’t seem to have worked. After getting the grant, a half dozen activists from LVEJO and other groups were arrested after climbing the fence to a coal-fired power plant and unfurling a banner that read: “Close Chicago’s Toxic Coal Plant.” Even amid America’s deficit crisis, the EPA has enough walking-around money to fund green radicals harassing EPA-regulated businesses in President Barack Obama’s hometown — coincidentally, the same President who spoke of bankrupting new coal-fired power plants.”

In your blood pressure isn’t high enough, yet, take a few minutes to read about the efforts of the Wild Earth Guardians to save “36 insects including 10 kinds of cave beetle” or thanks to another EPA grant, the work of the California Indian Basketweavers Association. Gordon concludes his report saying:

“Throwing money around like this goes far beyond waste. It is a brazen offense to most taxpayers. If Congress doesn’t have the will to slash this kind of stuff, what can it cut?”

If needed, Arlington County taxpayers can lower their blood pressure by calling or writing their favorite elected poohbah on Capitol Hill at the links below:

  • Senator Jim Webb (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024.
  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023.
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376.

May 19, 2011

Thanks, Arlington County Board! We're Not #1

Nor number 2 through number 38. And be happy you don’t live in New York or New Jersey.

The Tax Foundation has just published Fiscal Fact No. 269, which contains five-year property tax burden data for “nearly all” 3,169 counties in the United States. The data comes from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, and covers the years 2005-2009. Here’s how the Tax Foundation describes the numbers:

“For some time now, the Tax Foundation has published median property tax statistics for counties in the United States.  These statistics are based on data from the American Community Survey.  Previously, data limitations meant that only mid- to high-population counties could be included in the rankings.  Now, for the first time, we are pleased to present data that includes nearly all counties in the United States. We rank counties three different ways: by median property taxes paid on homes, by median property taxes as a percentage of median home values, and by median property taxes as a percentage of median household income.

“The Census Bureau recently released American Community Survey data as a five-year average, from 2005 to 2009. The larger number of survey responses and correspondingly larger sample sizes included in this five-year period allows estimates to be calculated for every county (or county-level entity) in the United States.  Previously, these data releases were limited to one-year or three-year averages, and the lower sample sizes for these releases meant that only mid- to high-population counties were included.

“Our data release includes nearly all 3,139 counties in the United States. We excluded 217 counties from our rankings because of their unreliably small sample size, for a final universe of 2,922 counties.”

Arlington County ranked #39 in “median property taxes paid on homes” for the years 2005-2009 ($4,341). By comparison, Hunterdon County, New York New Jersey (apologies, 5/20/11) ranked #1 ($8,216).

Arlington’s median home value during the period was $565,100 while Hunterdon County’s was $452,100. Considering “taxes as a percent of home value” Arlington ranked #1523 while Hunterdon ranked #136.

The third way the Tax Foundation ranked the counties on property tax burden was “taxes as a percent of income.” Arlington’s “median household income” was $125,630, which ranked Arlington #328. By comparison, Hunterdon’s median household income was $112,474, which ranked it #8.

Arlington County’s immediate neighbors in Northern Virginia outranked our “world-class county” on median property taxes paid on homes.”

  • Falls Church -- $6,012 (#15)
  • Loudoun County -- $4,669 (#32)
  • Fairfax County -- $4,371 (#37)
  • Arlington County --- $4,341 (#39) (emphasis added)
  • Alexandria -- $3,827 (#67)

Sometimes it’s good not to be “world class?” And thanks, Tax Foundation, for all your hard work.

UPDATE (5/24/11):

First, yesterday's Arlington Sun Gazette includes a story about Arlington County's tax burden, which cites comments by ACTA's president, Tim Wise.

Finally, ARLnow.com reported yesterday on the same Tax Foundation study, which includes three good charts showing how nearby local governments compared based on the three tax burden measures in the Tax Foundation study. Following is just one of them:

 

May 18, 2011

No Surprise, County Board “Accepts” Energy Plan

To no one’s surprise, last night, the Arlington County Board “accepted,” the “Community Energy and Sustainability Task Force Report” that was developed after last year’s Board chairman, Jay Fisette, and his colleagues adopted the “green ribbon” CES task force charter and appointed CES members on January 1, 2010 (link is to Mr. Fisette’s New Year’s Day 2010 “organizational meeting speech).

According to an online news report posted today by the Arlington Sun Gazette’s Scott McCaffrey, the Board’s “acceptance” of the report sets “the stage for another 18 months of effort before the specifics begin being incorporated into development planning.” He further reports:

“The task force report, completed in March after more than a year of study, calls for efforts to reduce the “carbon footprint” of the county by more than two-thirds, from 13.4 metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions per person to 3 tons or less by 2050.

“The proposal represents a chance to “think a little bigger and look a little further down the road” than conventional planning, said County Board member Jay Fisette.”

The ACTA president testified at the meeting, focusing his remarks on global warming since the entire plan is predicated on reducing carbon-dioxide emissions in Arlington County. Other than the opening remarks, his testimony follows:

I’m sure you were happy yesterday after reading the lead editorial about climate change in yesterday’s Washington Post. However, as the Heartland Institute responded, most of the authors of the report The Post relied upon “have no formal training in climate science, and nearly all of whom had a longstanding record of global warming activism” before selection to the panel. For example, the vice chairman served for years as a top staffer for the Environmental Defense Fund environmental activist group.”

So much for activism!

Now let me tell you about David Evans, a mathematician and engineer with a PhD from Stanford University in electrical engineering. More importantly, he consulted for the Australian Greenhouse Office (now the Department of Climate Change) for eight years, modelling Australia's carbon in plants, mulch, soils, forestry,  etc. Sounds like he would have fit right in with the consultants of this project.

The reason I mention David Evans, however, is because of the op-ed he wrote in Canada’s Financial Post on April 8, 2011. The op-ed was based upon comments made to the Anti-Carbon-Tax Rally in Perth, Australia, on March 23.

First, he says, “The debate about global warming has reached ridiculous proportions and is full of micro-thin half-truths and misunderstandings,” adding that he was “a scientist who was on the carbon gravy train,” and that he “understands the evidence, was once an alarmist (himself), but (is) now a skeptic.” At first he was amused as global warming unfolded, but it’s now “tearing society apart, (and) making fools out of our politicians.”

Is there global warming? Evans sets “a few things straight” when he says:

“The whole idea that carbon dioxide is the main cause of the recent global warming is based on a guess that was proved false by empirical evidence during the 1990s. But the gravy train was too big, with too many jobs, industries, trading profits, political careers, and the possibility of world government and total control riding on the outcome. So rather than admit they were wrong, the governments, and their tame climate scientists, now outrageously maintain the fiction that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant.

“Let's be perfectly clear. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and other things being equal, the more carbon dioxide in the air, the warmer the planet. Every bit of carbon dioxide that we emit warms the planet. But the issue is not whether carbon dioxide warms the planet, but how much.”

According to Evans, “The planet reacts to that extra carbon dioxide, which changes everything. Most critically, the extra warmth causes more water to evaporate from the oceans. But does the water hang around and increase the height of moist air in the atmosphere, or does it simply create more clouds and rain? Remember, moist air is also a greenhouse gas.”

It’s my understanding the extent of global warming is officially measured by ground-level thermometers. However, Evans says, in a survey, 90% of the official thermometers violated official siting requirements by being too close to an artificial heating source. A question you should be asking is why when we have weather satellites capable of measuring “nearly the whole planet 24/7, “Why does ‘official science’ track only the surface thermometer results and not mention the satellite results?”

Earlier, I noted, Evans admitted to being on the global warming gravy train. In closing, let me ask you why your energy plan report so closely tracks track the local government’s executive guide for developing energy efficiency and sustainability plans that was published by IBM? And have you been scammed by Big Environment? Arlington taxpayers would like to know.

We expect to address more fully the efforts of the energy/sustainability effort in the coming days and months. If you are interested in learning more about the county's agenda in pushing energy/sustainability plan, contact ACTA's president, Tim Wise.

p.s. Links for the sources for the testimony will be posted tomorrow. You can watch last night's Board meeting at this Board webpage.

May 17, 2011

Quote of the Day

 "In a republican form of government, the true theory is to make no distinctions as to persons in the rates of taxation. Recognizing no class for special favors, we ought not to create a class for special burden."

     ~ Joseph S. Morrill

HT Page 127, "As Certain As Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010. Tax Analysts, Inc.

May 16, 2011

Quote of the Day

"The moment you abandon . . . the cardinal principle of exacting from all individuals the same proportion of their income or their property, you are at sea without rudder or compass, and there is no amount of injustice or folly you may not commit."

~ J. R. McCulloch

HT Page 127, "As Certain As Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010. TaxAnalysts, Inc.

May 15, 2011

Read Your Own Newspaper, E.J.

Washington Post progressive columnist, E.J. Dionne, was his usual self last Sunday, whining that little attention is paid to “government successes.” In that case it was “the government’s rescue of the Detroit-based auto companies.”

Sure hope E.J. reads the front-page story in today’s Post. Editors gave it “above-the-fold” attention, but the headline of the investigative story tells you most of what you want to know -- “Tasked with building homes for the poor, HUD has lost hundreds of millions on delayed or defunct construction deals nationwide.” (emphasis added).

The Post story by Debbie Cenziper and Jonathan Mummolo focuses on the cause when they write:

“At the heart of the problem lies HUD’s failure to track the pace of construction.

“HUD monitors only when local agencies draw money from their federal accounts, not what is actually being built. That leaves HUD with little way of knowing when projects stall or die. Local housing agencies are supposed to notify the federal government, but they often fail to say anything.

“If [housing agencies] fail to terminate projects as they should, we may not be aware of them right away,” Marquez said.

“She said that it is not feasible for HUD to monitor thousands of ongoing developments and that local agencies should have their own project-tracking systems.

“The Post independently analyzed HUD data to find about 700 troubled projects that were awarded $400 million.

“But the actual number of stalled or terminated projects is likely to be much higher. The Post identified an additional 2,800 projects worth $1 billion that are in “final draw,” meaning the projects drew all of their allotted HUD funding but are still listed as open and ongoing in HUD’s records.

“In some cases, the work was completed, but local agencies had failed to tell HUD. In other cases, however, projects were delayed or scrapped. The Post found abandoned projects in final draw from Texas to Florida to the D.C. region.

“One dead project listed in final draw was proposed for downtown Rockville, where the nonprofit Montgomery Housing Partnership received $550,000 in 2008 to build a 109-unit apartment building.

“The project struggled with funding gaps, opposition from neighbors and a lack of support from elected officials. Three years later, nothing has been built.”

If Congress ever gets around to bringing the deficit and the debt under control, the first place they might want to look to control federal spending is HUD, which looks to be a prime starting place. If additional evidence is needed that HUD is a prime starting place to downsize government, visit the Cato Institute’s “Downsizing the Federal Government” website where Chris Edwards and Tad deHaven propose spending cuts that would “save taxpayers $63 billion annually.”

May 14, 2011

Poll Shows Americans Oppose Raising Debt Ceiling

A poll released on Friday by the Gallup organization, based on a May 5-8 Gallup poll, shows that Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling by 47% to 19% with 34% saying they "don't know enough to say." Only 8% of Republicans approve raising the debt ceiling while 70% oppose with 33% of Democrats favor raising the ceiling and 26% opposing raising the ceiling. Independents oppose raising the ceiling 46% to 15%.

Interestingly, 21% of Republicans told Gallup they "don't know enough to say," but 40% of both Independents and Democrats say they "don't know enough to say." Unfortunately, only 57% of Americans "say they are closely following the news about 'discussions to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, the maximum amount of money the U.S. government can borrow by law.'"

In commenting on the implications of the poll, among other things, Gallup said:

"Regardless, it may be worthwhile to think back to what happened with the financial bailout legislation -- the so-called TARP -- in 2008. This was another unpopular piece of financial legislation that the president, the Treasury secretary, and the Fed chairman all supported, saying it was essential for global stability. After first voting this legislation down and watching the markets plunge, the Congress passed TARP. Efforts to pass unpopular legislation to raise the debt ceiling could create similar challenges."

Arlington County taxpayers concerned about debt ceiling may want to take a few minutes to voice their concerns to their poohbahs on Capitol Hill. Better yet, write to them at the links below:

  • Senator Jim Webb (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024.
  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023.
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376.

May 13, 2011

Resolving FY 2012 Budgets Elsewhere in Virginia

We growled on April 15 after the Arlington County Board adopted the Fiscal Year 2012 budget. So how did some other local jurisdictions resolve their budgets. The Virginia Municipal League has been reporting on the resolution of local jursdictions' FY 2012 budgets in their biweekly newsletter, Update.

Let's look how VML reported the results of several local governments' budgets in the May 13 newsletter. VML began describing the budgets of some Hampton Roads jurisdictions this way:

"Signs of economic recovery are faint in Hampton Roads. Real estate sales are improving, but foreclosures make up a significant portion of sales, keeping a lid on prices. Assessments continue to fall. In this environment, the spending and revenue choices facing local elected officials are challenging.

"In Norfolk the city manager’s proposed budget will hold the line on real estate taxes. That runs counter to the trend in South Hampton Roads where city managers in Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, and Suffolk have all called for real estate tax increases.

"Although the FY12 proposal does not include a general tax increase, Norfolk’s city manager is calling for a 10-cent-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax to 75 cents per pack and a doubling of the transient occupancy tax, adding $1 per night. Water and sewer rates also will increase.

"The budget also includes the elimination of 69 positions with 18 layoffs. The number of layoffs could have been much higher, but some 150 employees accepted a $10,000 bonus to retire before July 1. For the third year in a row, city employees will receive no pay raises.

"To close a $32 million budget gap, the proposal anticipates using $17 million in one-time revenues, as well as spending reductions imposed on dozens of agencies and non-profit organizations. School funding was not cut, but the school board’s request for additional funding was declined.

"One issue capturing attention in Norfolk’s budget debate is the city’s level of indebtedness. Norfolk doubled its debt in a period of five years to a projected $1.056 billion. Although the city is within its self-imposed fiscal guidelines, including limiting debt payments to 10 percent of the general operating budget, debt payments this year and next are barely within that guideline. Norfolk owes about $4,348 for each of its citizens. This compares unfavorably to other South Hampton cities – $2,274 per capita for Virginia Beach, $3,162 per capita for Portsmouth, and $2,733 per capita for Suffolk.

"Virginia Beach City Council has begun making decisions on the proposed FY12 budget. Although council rejected the city manager’s recommendation to raise the real estate tax rate by 2 cents and the personal property tax rate by 20 cents, they agreed that additional revenue is needed. To that end, homeowners will start paying a $10 monthly trash fee and higher stormwater fees. (The average homeowner will see an annual cost jump in stormwater fees from $88 to $115 in FY12, $134 in FY13, and $152 in FY14.) City Council also decided to take $23.7 million from the school division, and agreed to form a committee to study the funding formula the city uses to share money with the school system.

"On the spending side of the ledger, council approved the first raises since 2008 – all employees will get a 2.5 percent raise under the plan. The city’s debt limit will also rise to $2,800 per capita, a 17 percent increase.

"In Suffolk, city council is expected to adopt a 6 cent real estate tax hike, a new trash collection fee, and a nearly $1 million cut in local support for public education. City officials assert that higher taxes and fees are needed to help close a $11.9 million budget gap, resulting from falling home values and state revenue cuts at a time when the city’s obligations continue to mount.

"In Hampton, city officials are trying to brace for possible cuts in the federally funded Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) program. The city receives about $2.6 million each year, which improves housing for low- and moderate-income residents. A possible program reduction of 16 percent is under discussion in Washington, D.C. A cut of that magnitude will hurt Hampton’s CDBG program as well as the 20 other Virginia cities participating in the federal program."

In addition to the Hampton Roads jurisdictions above, the May 13 newsletter includes budget information for Alexandria, Manassas, Falls Church and Arlington County in Northern Virginia and Danville and Martinsville in Southside. Comparing the jurisdictions can produce rather sobering results. Other local budgets can be found in earlier issues of Update.

May 12, 2011

Big Government + Big Business = Big Environmentalism

Capital Research Center was established in 1984 with the goal of studying non-profit organizations with a focus on reviving the American tradition of charity and philanthropy. One of CRC's research publications is Green Watch. In the February 2011 edition of Green Watch, Amanda Carey first reminds us of the famous warning about the 'military-industrial complex' by President Dwight Eisenhower in his farewell address in 1961, and then goes on to discuss the growth of the 'Green-Industrial Complex.'

Here's the brief summary from Ms. Carey's essay:

"In his farewell address in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the country against an emerging “military-industrial complex” in which the allocation of government grants and contracts from the federal government to the private sector would create an undue influence over national defense policy and the agenda of scientific research. Today, another dangerous industrial complex looms on the horizon. But rather than warning us about it, President Obama encourages its growth. It is the “Green-Industrial Complex,” or what climate warrior Bjorn Lomborg has called the “Climate-Industrial Complex.” A web of players that includes corporations and environmental non-profits, business executives, lobbyists, and government officials, is promoting a renewable energy agenda and targeting coal producers and the oil industry as public enemy number one. We should ask, “Who benefits and who loses?” as green groups, companies and the government work together to create new energy and environmental policies. The Green-Industrial Complex is likely to reap huge profits, but consumers, workers and taxpayers will pay the price in the end."

Read Ms. Carey's entire essay (requires Adobe). Then take some time to study Arlington County's Community Energy and Sustainability Task Force Report. Don't believe there's a connection? Read Ms. Carey's essay, and then take a hard look at how the community energy and sustainability task report came to be.

May 11, 2011

When a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

An editorial in yesterday’s Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) discusses the upcoming battle over the nation’s “massive and growing debt problem. It adds “the battle lines are clear: Republicans want to focus on spending" . . . while "President Obama and his fellow Democrats want a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts that leave Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security largely untouched.”

Enter the IBD editorial to the rescue. According to the editorial:

“An IBD analysis of spending and tax data going back to the Truman administration shows that it's out-of-control spending, not taxes, that is driving the country's current fiscal mess.

“As the chart nearby shows (i.e., the chart below), revenues as a percentage of GDP have remained remarkably constant at around 18% since the mid-1940s, regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican was in the White House, and despite numerous tax hikes, tax cuts and endless tax-law changes that saw the top income tax bracket go from a high of 94% in 1945 to a low of 28% in 1988, and up and down ever since.

“Even President Obama's 2012 budget plan, which would raise taxes on families making more than $250,000, wouldn't alter this trend. According to the CBO, the president's budget would produce tax revenues averaging 18.7% of GDP over the next 10 years.

“What has changed dramatically over these years is federal spending. As the chart shows, average spending fluctuated as a share of the economy since Truman. But Obama's 2012 budget calls for federal spending to average 23.5% of GDP over the next decade — higher than at any time since World War II. Spending would top 24% of GDP by 2021.

“Unless taxpayers are willing to see their tax load permanently raised, it means that spending cuts will have to carry the load to get deficits under control.”


If that chart doesn't show the problem is spending, as opposed to some imaginary need to raise taxes, nothing does. Thanks John Merline and IBD!

May 10, 2011

When the Minimum Wage is Punishment

Walter Williams writes “about the minimum wage’s devastating effects” in an Investor’s Business Daily op-ed, noting that “yet another study has reached the same conclusion.” He cites a study posted by two labor economists at the Employment Policies Institute, including a link to the full study:

Dr. Williams, an economics professor at George Mason University, cites the study authored by Professors William Even (Miami University of Ohio) and David Macpherson (Trinity University). In the op-ed, Dr. Williams writes:

“Their study focuses on 16-to-24-year-old male high school dropouts, understandably a relatively inexperienced group of labor market participants.

“Since minimum wage laws discriminate against the employment of the least-skilled worker, it shouldn't be surprising to find 16-to-24-year-old male high school dropouts its primary victims.

“Among the white males, the authors find that "each 10% increase in a state or federal minimum wage has decreased employment by 2.5%; for Hispanic males, the figure is 1.2%.

"But among black males in this group, each 10% increase in the minimum wage decreased employment by 6.5%."

“The authors go on to say, "The effect is similar for hours worked: each 10% increase reduces hours worked by 3% among white males, 1.7% for Hispanic males, and 6.6% for black males."

By the way, the Employment Policies Institute has an extensive collection of minimum wage studies. They focus on public policy involving employment growth, and also study so-called living wages and health care.

May 09, 2011

Speaking of the Speed of Federal Spending . . . .

Last Thursday, we growled that federal spending is growing ten times faster than the growth of median household income, i.e., 299% vs. 27%. Today, let’s take a look at what’s happening with the total tax burden using a federal revenue chart from the Heritage Foundation’s 2011 budget chart book. According to the chart below, “the total tax burden is rising to (the) highest level in history.” Here’s how Heritage describes what’s going on in the chart:

“Taxes are projected to increase rapidly under various policy scenarios. If the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire and more middle-class Americans are required to pay the alternative minimum tax (AMT), taxes will reach unprecedented levels. The tax burden will climb even if those tax breaks are extended. President Obama's budget, which cuts some taxes and raises others, also increases the overall tax burden.”

 

Arlington County taxpayers who are concerned about federal budgeting, whether it involves spending, taxes, deficits or the debt, may want to take a few minutes to voice their concerns to their poohbahs on Capitol Hill. Better yet, write to them at the links below:

  • Senator Jim Webb (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024.
  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023.
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376.

May 08, 2011

Who Exactly Is Propping-Up Whom?

The April 29, 2011 bi-weekly newsletter, Update, published by the Virginia Municipal League, which incidentally is paid for in-part by about $36,000 in annual dues by Arlington County taxpayers, whined, “Data included in the (Virginia) Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Annual Report for FY10 show that local governments continue to be the major financier of the state’s public education system, and that the state’s support of public education is slipping.” (emphasis added)

Based upon data in the Annual Report’s Table 15, which VML asserted “is regarded as one of the most authoritative and comprehensive sources of data on education funding,” VML provided a table showing the “sources of financial support for education operating expenditures” for the five years FY2006 through FY2010 (expressed in percentages). Briefly, the table showed:

FY 2006: Local, 50.2%; State, 42.8%; Federal, 7.1%.
FY 2010: Local, 49.2%; State, 39.9%; Federal, 10.9%.

To paraphrase what a sportscaster might say, let’s go to Table 15, and see what it shows for the Arlington Public Schools and its Northern Virginia neighbors:

  • Arlington: Local, 83.6%; State, 12.1%; Federal, 4.3%.
  • Fairfax County/City: Local, 74.5%; State, 19.0%; Federal, 6.6%.
  • Loudoun: Local, 75.3%, State, 20.1%; Federal, 4.5%.
  • Prince William: Local, 45.6%; State, 44.3%, Federal, 10.1%.
  • Alexandria: Local, 79.4%; State, 13.6%; Federal, 7.1%.

Before comparing numbers, let’s consider a couple of more numbers from Table 15 for the Northern Virginia school districts, i.e., cost per student spending and local revenues per student.

  • Arlington: cost per student, $19,640; local revenues per student, $16,411.
  • Fairfax County/City: cost per student, $12,912; local revenues per student, $9,614.
  • Loudoun: cost per student, $12,688; local revenue per student, $9,557.
  • Prince William: cost per student, $10,298; local revenue per student, $4,698.
  • Alexandria: cost per student, $18,082; local revenue per student, $14,350.

Now let’s consider the tax burden borne by local taxpayers, i.e., dividing local revenues per student by the school district’s cost per student:

  • Arlington -- 83.6%
  • Fairfax County/City -- 74.5%
  • Loudoun -- 75.3%
  • Prince William -- 45.6%
  • Alexandria -- 79.4%

So while one of Arlington County’s lobbyist in Richmond, i.e., the Virginia Municipal League, is working to get the Virginia General Assembly to become the “major financier” of K-12 education, and likely raising your state taxes at the same time, Arlington County taxpayers would be taking a double-whammy. The reason is because of the financing gimmick known as the “Composite Index of Local Ability to Pay. According to Table 16 of the Superintendent’s Annual report, each jurisdiction’s “ability to pay” is calculated based upon a weighting of 50% for the value of real property, 40% for adjusted gross income, and 10% for retail sales taxes. By the way, according to the Virginia Department of Education, “Each locality’s index is adjusted to maintain an overall statewide local share of 45 percent and an overall state share of 55 percent.”

Wouldn’t it be great if Virginia afforded parents greater School Choice? That kind of competition would almost surely reduce the burden of paying for K-12 from the backs of Arlington County taxpayers.

May 07, 2011

Kudos to Steve Milloy and JunkScience.com

In an op-ed in the weekend edition of Investor’s Business Daily, JunkScience.com publisher Steve Milloy writes about the recent announcement that General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt “was giving up his green energy lobbying crusade and getting back to the business of creating wealth at the struggling GE.” Milloy included this quote by Immelt:

“If I had one thing to do over again, I would not have talked so much about green," he told a Massachusetts Institute of Technology audience.

"Even though I believe in global warming and I believe in the science ... it just took on a connotation that was too elitist.

"It was too precious, and it let opponents think that if you had a green initiative, you didn't care about jobs. I'm a businessman. That's all I care about, is jobs ... I'm kind of over the stage of arguing for a comprehensive energy policy. I'm back to keeping my head down and working."

Milloy then goes on to explain that it all started “when Immelt announced GE's ecomagination initiative, a marketing and lobbying campaign to push so-called "clean" technologies, such as wind turbines, solar and other politically correct technology.” It continued with Milloy and friends filing “a novel shareholder resolution with GE asking the company to justify its lobbying for junk science-based and economy-killing carbon caps. GE tried and failed to get the Securities and Exchange Commission to block our proposal from its proxy statement, as it did for the next several years. Each time, though, (Milloy and friends) prevailed.”

The rest of the details are in the IBD op-ed and this blog post at JunkScience.com, including the following announcement of victory at JunkScience.com:

"General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt has finally renounced advocacy of global warming legislation . . . and we helped!"

With the Arlington County Board getting ready to “accept” the Community Energy and Sustainability Task Force Report, Arlington taxpayers may want to ask Board members if it’s time to quit their green energy crusade and start running the county instead -- the same as GE CEO Jeff Immelt is getting back to by "keeping his head down and working."

May 06, 2011

Quote of the Day

"I am more afraid of an army of one hundred sheep led by a lion than an army of one hundred lions led by a sheep."

     ~ Charles Maurice, Prince de Talleyrand-Périgord

HT QuoteGarden

May 05, 2011

Federal Spending: Almost Faster Than A Speeding Bullet

The Heritage Foundation is out with a new set of budget charts for FY 2011, including the one below showing that "federal spending grew more than ten times faster than median income." As the narrative explaining this says:

"When federal spending grows faster than Americans' paychecks, the burden on taxpayers becomes greater. Over the past few decades, middle-income Americans' earnings have risen only 27 percent, while spending has increased 299 percent." (emphasis added)

There are 24 charts in total, including federal spending (7); federal revenue (5); debt and deficits (6) and entitlements (6). The chart below shows how federal spending is growing faster than median income.

 

May 04, 2011

Why Tax Increases Are The Wrong Approach

Dan Mitchell posts a great video at Big Government that explains seven reasons for opposing higher taxes. Narrated by Piyali Bhattacharya of Young Americans for Liberty, the video lists the following reasons to oppose higher taxes:

  1. Tax increases are not needed
  2. Tax increases encourage more spending
  3. Tax increases harm economic performance
  4. Tax increases foment social discord
  5. Tax increases almost never raise as much revenue as projected
  6. Tax increases encourage more loopholes
  7. Tax increases undermine competitiveness

The bottom line, however, is:

“(T)ax increases are a bad idea – unless you favor bigger government."

The video takes only seven minutes of your time. Inform yourself so you can inform the political elite as well as your neighbors.

The video is also available at You Tube.

May 03, 2011

Some in Congres Still Don't Understand Country is Broke

Want proof? Look at the "most expensive bill of the week" in issue 14 of The Taxpayer's Tab from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), dated April 26, 2011. It's H.R. 1209, the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act of 2011, sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California). According to NTUF:

"Roughly five million households receive rental assistance from programs managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). To be eligible for the government's rental vouchers, a family's income must be below either 50 percent or 80 percent of the area's median income, depending upon the program. Sponsored by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35), H.R. 1209 would change and streamline formulas for determining housing allowances, specifically for senior citizens, the disabled, and those with children and dependents.

The bill would provide an additional 150,000 tenant-based vouchers. The average cost of each new voucher would amount to $7,500 and would be distributed on an annual basis. H.R. 1209 also creates 41,300 vouchers that would help to pay for HUD-related mortgages and to replace Section 8 dwellings.

According to a report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), H.R. 1209 would result in $7.554 billion in new spending over the next five years. Up to 87 percent of the bill's cost would result from the new vouchers.

NTUF also reported on the least expensive bill of the week, i.e., H.R. 1217, and H.R. 1297, introduced by Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, which was the "most friended" bill that would ensure the pay of military personnel in those cases when the government is shut down.

May 02, 2011

Quote of the Day

"It is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects - military, political, economic, and what not.  But in a way things are much simpler than that.  The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life.  A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden - that is what the State is there for.  And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time."

     ~ C.S. Lewis

May 01, 2011

Are Arlington’s Taxpayers That Much Happier?

Based upon their polling data, Rasmussmen Report(TM) announced last week that 72% of voters said that “taxpayers (are) not getting their money’s worth from public schools.” According to the Rasmussen report:

“Nationally, the United States spends an average of about $9,000 per student per year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 11% of voters think the taxpayers are getting a good return on that investment. Seventy-two percent (72%) disagree and say taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth. Sixteen percent (16%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

“Thirty-four percent (34%) voters believe student performance will improve if more money is spent on funding for schools and educations programs. A plurality (41%) disagrees and thinks that increased spending will not lead to improve student performance. Twenty-five percent (25%) aren’t sure.

“The survey also found that voters tend to underestimate how much is spent on education.  Thirty-nine percent (39%) say the average per student expenditure is less than $9,000 per year while only 12% think it’s higher than that. Nine percent (9%) estimate the right amount but a plurality of 40% is not sure. There is a wide range of expenditure on education depending upon the state and region.

“Most voters (54%) continue to believe that the government does not spend enough on public education, unchanged from a year ago. But that figure drops to 38% when voters are asked specifically if $9,000 per year is too much, too little or about the right amount to spend per student on education. Twenty-two percent (22%) of voters say, generally speaking, the government spends too much on public education, and that edges up slightly to 24% when voters are given the $9,000 per year figure.”

However, in the 2009 Community Satisfaction Survey Results (requires Adobe) performed by "the polling company" for the Arlington Public Schools, “86% of parents and 63% of community members agreed “somewhat” or “strongly” that their tax-dollar investment in Arlington Public Schools is well spent.” The question was worded this way: “My tax dollars are being well spent by the Arlington public schools.” In addition, 5% of parents and 18% of community members responded “neither agree or disagree” while 7% of parents and 10% of community members responded “somewhat disagree” or “strong disagree.”

As noted above, the national average of the cost-per-student is about $9,000. On the other hand, the cost-per-student for Arlington County students in the Superintendent’s proposed FY 2012 budget was $18,115 per student. Sure makes you wonder how close to 100% the voters in the Rasmussen survey would gotten to the question about “getting their money’s worth from public schools” if told the cost per student was over $18,000 per student?